Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fire on the Mountain

It appears that for the first time in the history of the United States, the majority of the public favors the legalization of marijuana. A recent Gallup poll showed that 50% of Americans favored legalization while only 46% opposed it, marking the first time in the polls 40-year history this has occurred. Shockingly, the highest support came from men in the 18-29 demographic while the lowest was senior citizens, which is ironically the group most likely to suffer from cataracts.
This is one of those issues that I was never really sure where I stood. On the one hand, the recreational use of perception-altering substances can often have serious, if unintended, side-effects. On the other hand, Friday was a really funny movie.

From what I understand, the argument against weed is anchored in the idea that it is morally reprehensible and decriminalization is the equivalent of legitimization. It would essentially be the government validating the pot-head lifestyle. Doing so would also become a slippery slope and the umbrella of legalization would soon grow to encompass cocaine, methamphetamines, and Canadian Prilosec until the entire nation was engulfed by a drug-fueled haze.

I can certainly understand these concerns and, unlike Ron Paul, I cannot get onboard with legalized heroin so I wish to avoid the slippery-slope pitfall.  Another argument is how the drug’s effects could compromise the safety of the greater public relating to, say, operating a motor vehicle. From what I have read, the level of impairment resulting from ganga use is on par with, if not slightly less than, alcohol consumption.

There is also the idea that crime rates will skyrocket once half the nation’s able-bodied youth fall under the deviant spell of hash. I could not locate any reliable statistics directly correlating marijuana use with violent crime, but then again you are unlikely to participate in a heated confrontation if you are unwilling to extricate yourself from the couch. In the majority of the cases, it appears that the user simply forfeits whatever ambitions they had in search of empty calories.

Proponents of legalization argue that the regulation and taxation of grass would reduce public safety spending while actually generating revenue through mandatory tariffs. Many point out that the addiction rates and destructive patterns of Mary Jane are no more troubling than alcohol which we regulate and tax to moderate success. Plus, your co-worker at Abercrombie & Fitch can stop pretending that he suffers from seasonal allergy attacks every time the Pink Floyd laser light show hits town.

It seems disingenuous to categorize marijuana with life-shattering substances like heroin or crystal meth. I can envision myself becoming accustomed to the sight of an employee getting baked behind the store with the nicotine addicts, but I am not libertarian enough to be comfortable with my mechanic tying off so that he can get dry while he checks my brakes. We do have a responsibility to prevent undeniably destructive substances from ensnaring the general populace; I am just not convinced that marijuana is any more destructive than vodka.  

While I myself have never partaken of the devil’s lettuce, I feel that the funds utilized to police, prosecute, and house marijuana offenders would be better served fighting much more destructive substances like crystal meth or canned BBQ. Plus, the commercials resulting from the inevitable corporatization of cheeba will be priceless. Can you imagine the TV spot featuring Willie Nelson where he looks gravely into the camera and proclaims, “When it comes time to blaze a fattie, there is only one choice: Willie’s Spanish Angel!”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Chiropractor

Several years ago, when my wife and I were first married, she was having some back pain and decided to see a chiropractor. Like all true practitioners of the craft, he felt it would be unethical to simply pop her spine without a comprehensive treatment plan. His initial assessment revealed that my poor spouse was suffering from a multitude of ailments such as asymmetrical leg length and spinal misalignment.  Thankfully, we caught it early and there was hope in the form of out-of-pocket recurring appointments.

Over the next few months, inserts were placed in her shoes and electrical pulses were applied to her back muscles as they constantly adjusted her vertebrae. While these actions might sound ridiculous, they did seem to ease her discomfort so I attempted to keep comments to a minimum. Once the initial tasks of connecting her to a car battery and cracking her backbone had been completed, she was given at home devices for further healing.

The most unusual setup involved a wedge-shaped foam pillow that was to be placed under the back of her neck while she laid flat across the bed. We would then position her so that her head was barely hanging over the edge of the mattress. Then, we attached a head-weight to her cranium so that gravity could assist in elongating her tragically compressed lumbar.

For those that do not know, the head weight was a rather sinister-looking apparatus comprised of a weighted concrete ball that attached to the patient’s skull via an intricate web of straps. Several times a week she was to attach her head-gear and allow it to decompress her back. Between sessions we simply tossed the wedged pillow and face-straps under the bed so that it was out of the way.

A few months into this routine, we purchased a new mattress and I asked my dad to come by and help me get the old mattress down the flight of stairs and out of the way. As we lifted the old box-springs, I noticed my father was staring intently at the space under the bed frame. As I came around to the other side of the mattress, I noticed what had arrested his attention.

There, surrounded by old condom wrappers we had forgotten to pick up, was the wedge and face-ball. Until that moment, it had never quite occurred to me how much her spinal accessories looked like a sex-toy starter kit. This was made worse by the fact that the manufacturer of the equipment had chosen to paint every last inch of it jet-black. It looked like a gigantic prosthetic testicle and the fact that it was wreathed by Trojan wrappers only exacerbated the problem.

I quickly weighed my options:
  1. Attempt to explain that the prophylactics were completely unrelated and that everything he saw was a legitimate medical device.
  2. Feign shock and vow that my wife was sure going to have some explaining to do when she got home.
  3. Pretend that I somehow did not see the S&M starter kit so prominently displayed under the bed.
I decided to go with option one but the more I talked the more I wish I had selected option three. He nodded politely as I explained everything, but I suspect he had long since retreated to that place inside where he was mercifully oblivious to what was stored under his firstborn’s bed. Even as I heard myself speaking, I realized how much it sounded like a poorly constructed lie.

We have never spoken of the incident since, and I am certain that suits my father just fine. Even though she no longer needs it for spinal correction, we have kept the skull-berry to use against intruders in the event of a home invasion. Ironically, just the image of me in my underwear holding this thing would probably be enough to ensure they never return.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Other FFA

As you may or may not know, the TLC network produces and airs a reality show titled “All-American Muslim” that follows the daily activities of five Islamic families residing in Dearborn, Michigan. Their professions range from a high-school football coach to a small business owner to a deputy sheriff with each adhering to differing levels of religious conservatism.

The show was panned by critics as “boring” and seemed to be destined for obscurity if not for the actions of an organization called the Florida Family Association. The group launched a massive campaign against the show’s advertisers for promoting the program’s agenda of manipulating “Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad.” When pressed for specific examples, the group cited a general “lack of extremism” as misrepresenting the Islamic propensity for violence and anarchy. Their efforts influenced Lowe’s and to pull their advertising which in turn brought the show widespread publicity and media coverage. 
The Jaafar Family
Unaware that an F.F.A. group existed that was not interested in farming; I decided to find out more about these concerned Floridians. The organization, which is classified as a 501C3 charity, operates under the following mission statement:  “Educate people on what they can do to defend, protect and promote traditional, biblical values.”

The organization was created in 1988 by corporate accountant David Caton, who currently serves as executive director. Every year they release a list detailing the various ways they have accomplished their stated goal. A few highlights from the past decade:

2000 – Influenced Publix and 7 Eleven to discontinue the sale of Maxim magazine.
2003 - Developed unique computer software, named PornCrawler, which “searches, identifies and quantifies internet sites and the related companies that place unrestricted pornography on the web.”
2004 – Wrote complaint letters to companies that advertised on the History Channel program Sex in the 20th Century.
2009 – Demanded the firing of David Letterman after he made a joke about The Palin Family.
2011 – “Exposed the AARP’s use of member resources to advocate same-sex marriage and pro-gay military policy.”

Many of their accomplishments are rather impressive, and before reading their newsletter I would never have associated something called “PornCrawler” with a conservative Biblical organization. In fact, if the software functions as advertised the FFA may now be in possession of the greatest database of unrestricted Internet pornography the word has ever seen. Better yet, they have even created an algorithm to categorize it based on the level of sexual depravity. Ironically, licensing this technology to the public could become the FFA’s greatest source of income.

Until 2003 the group employed the more specific (and less enforceable) mission statement “to educate and influence Corporate America and Public Officials to embrace morally responsible business practices as it relates to pornography, trash television, raunch radio and homosexual extremism.” Under this banner they attacked controversial mainstays such as Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, and Disney.

Regarding the groups statements on All-American Muslim, I have never heard of someone boycotting a show because it excluded something controversial. The FFA appears to be pioneering an entirely new approach to being offended. Under this new model the possibilities are limitless because one can become incensed due to the absence of ignorant stereotypes. Imagine taking to the streets because Dora the Explorer did not enter the country illegally at the behest of a Mexican drug cartel or shunning Fox because Hank Hill and his family did not cook crystal meth in their disability-funded mobile home.

I also find it curious that they have taken no action against other TLC shows like Sister Wives since I doubt that one man repeatedly impregnating four separate women at the same time would be considered a “traditional value” in their eyes. I also feel that they missed the boat on Jersey Shore. Of all the programming they have attacked, how do you miss the one show so devoid of morality that Abercrombie & Fitch would pay not to be associated with it.

Their pre-2003 mission statement was also the first time I have heard the term “homosexual extremism.” The description would seem to denote one who is extra gay as opposed to being moderately so, indicating that while the FFA can get onboard with fastidious grooming, they are unlikely to own To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! on Blu-Ray.

Of course the “extremist” label could also refer to those who perpetrate violence as an extension of their orientation. One can almost imagine this militant flamboyancy evolving into a roving mob of disenfranchised youth who express themselves through bedazzled Molotov cocktails. Heaven help us if they find themselves in control of a nuclear warhead….

Perhaps most disturbing was the group’s use of tax-exempt funding for political influence within their own state. Since 2010, the group has utilized its considerable infrastructure to “keep alive Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s legal challenge to ObamaCare.” While the rest of their actions could effectively be classified as “promoting Biblical values,” I cannot find any scriptural references to government-subsidization of healthcare. In fact, the only medical services Jesus provided were offered at no cost to the patient. This means that if the group were to promote an unaltered “Biblical” approach to healthcare, our entire system would collapse overnight.

While I do not necessarily agree that the AARP has a secret pro-gay agenda or that non-violent Muslims are far more dangerous than their extremist counterparts, I do agree with the group’s right to be heard and to fund their actions through tax-deductible donations. They have even made important contributions in the fight against child pornography, but when their actions become purely political in nature (as is clearly the case with Healthcare Reform), the FFA should pay their taxes like everyone else.